tv The American Way of Poverty CSPAN November 2, 2013 8:45am-10:11am EDT
much more to the reality of detroit bat, you know, and that would be sort of a rich sort of bottomless wealth of stories for me. and it was good to the point i eventually had to leave when it came time to write the book because everyday i would open the newspaper and it would be some new insane thing i want to write about so i had to cut myself off eventually cold turkey to write this thing. >> hi, mark. another ex-michigander here mac we all came together for this. >> do you guys have a club in austin? [laughter] spink saw a bunch of them yesterday. there's a big interest i think a lot, for a lot of people to be able to help detroit's regrowth in any way they can. but there's always a challenge and your conscientious of your
understand what to make these efforts based not on bias or stereotype or bad data. you want to understand where the growth is happening and you want to focus your attention there. in your opinion what can someone do, who has been year, who understand how things are going, what can anyone of us, any individual who is interested in detroit, what's the best thing we can do with regrowth and supports? >> that's a good question. there's a lot of great nonprofits operating in the area. the frontier question, dan, you asked earlier, has led to come as i said, lots of bad things, crime, a sort of sense of lawlessness but it's also created this would that's really force people to step up. you see a lot of, i have a chapter in the book about people kind of stepping in and doing things that people in austin or other sort of normal functioning
cities don't have to do. so you hear, you know, i write about this group of guys who just patrol neighborhoods and actually look for and catch criminals. possibly slightly scary. but also needed in some neighborhoods. one other thing that's gotten a lot of attention is urban farming. there are all these vacant plots of land where neighbors are just getting tired of seeing these fields in a summit where the grass is literally up to your waist. so people will just take them over and start planting not only gardens, but little farms. so stuff like that is happening all over the city. i would recommend doing some research online. there's lots and lots of different organizations that could definitely use your help.
>> this is going to be our last question and then i have one very quick question for mark and jeff to answer in 20 seconds or less. >> so for mr. bonelli can what you think about the plans to sell off the price our collection of the dia? >> is a terrible plan. i don't think it's going to happen, but yeah, i mean, you know, another thing that i really dislike about the emergency manager who i mentioned earlier, kevyn orr. i don't think it he is serious about doing about floating the idea of the disturbing but it may be think of, he comes out of the world of corporate bankruptcy. so when you think about for instance, the auto company bailouts which i do believe were necessary, but when a company goes through that sort of managed to bankruptcy, they aren't forced to sell all of their assets. they also get a large, generally get a large fusion of cash that
allows them to restructure and move forward and make themselves healthy again. and so detroit, there's no talk of that. if you sell everything off, you're not going to a city left in the and. >> so, that brings this session to an end. i want to remind everybody mark and jeff will be in the signing tent after this signing the books. my name is dan oppenheimer. i'm provider in austin. i should have introduced myself in the beginning. thank you again for coming. enjoy more of the festival. [applause] [inaudible conversations] >> you are watching c-span2 with politics and public affairs. weekdays featuring live coverage of the u.s. senate. on weeknights watch key public policy events. and a week in the latest nonfiction authors and books on booktv. you can see past programs and get our schedules at our website. you can join in the conversation
on social media sites. >> sasha abramsky is next on booktv. he talks about the chronically poor and the working poor in america. and how their lives have changed since 2008. he says the level of inequality in the u.s. today hasn't been seen since the 1920s. this is about an hour and a half. >> thank you, everyone, for coming tonight. really appreciated. i want to thank the open society foundation for hosting this event. i also would like to say thanks to rich benjamin looks out for us fellows, that so self-serving on my part but so be it. bridge, thank you so much. and what are going to do is sasha and i will have a conversation for a bit and then we will open the floor to questions and then after that
you guys will just buy tons of books. we liked that part especially. sasha, congratulations, and i guess we can just get to it. you mentioned just before we came on, we're talking about not surprising poverty but to the it's amazing that we are even talking about it. it an issue that has tended to the office table and were talking about the public issues and public policies in the united states for the longest time. it's getting back out on the table now and sasha is giving it a much bigger nudge with his book. so we appreciate. so to start, give us a picture of poverty in the united states. how big of a problem is this? no, and poor people are there and who are these folks speak with i will do that in one minute before i do i want to thank a whole bunch of people for putting this on, visiting
all of the work of the many menus of this project. i'm not going to go through a list of names but everybody of the open society, everyone at demos, everyone at the nation books, huge thank you for your support for this work. most importantly though i want to thank the hundreds and hundreds of people around the country who shared their stories with me. that segues to your question, bob, what does it look like? i found absolutely fascinating. i had these assumptions but i think we all have assumptions about what poverty is. we all tend to oversimplify it. we have been told for years and years and years that poverty is basically a set of stereotypes. we don't think of it as a set of individuals. we think of it as a set of feelings that our culture talks about poverty, the undeserving poor. it talks about drug addiction, mental illness. we have a whole series of cultural images of what poverty is in this country, and usually the people who perpetuate the
stereotypes are people don't spend time talking to people about what poverty really is and what it means in their lives. now, this project took many, many years, and i went to the entries. i went to church. i went to community centers. i had a whole bunch of people in many states around the country who thought it was important to get these stories out and have these voices and the faces made real. i went to rural hawaii. i went to urban philadelphia. i went to the lower ninth ward in new orleans. i went to suburban stockton, california. i went to communities in las vegas whatever house on the surface looks like a mansion, 3000 square feet and maybe a swimming pool. and every single house on the block was in foreclosure, and every single resident is in bankruptcy. i went to detroit, and how many people have been to detroit? it's quite extraordinary. it used to be one of the
biggest, most important cities in america. it's got tens of thousands of vacant lots. it's got two to 3000 urban farms within a stone's throw of the downtown skyscrapers where land is being reclaimed by people who are so poor that they don't -- they are doing substances for me. when you ask the question what poverty is, to me it is is collocated as modern-day america. you can't reduce it to the seven hotspots that miles was talking about the michael aron can identify a half-century ago. he talked about appalachia. he talked about the mississippi delta. he talked about certain native american reservations, and he said here's where poverty is concentrated. well, if you go around america today, yes, there are still hotspots. you deep into the mississippi delta there are still extraordinary levels of poverty. you go into some of the reservations in the southwest and again use the the levels of
poverty that are almost unfathomable, but that poverty is also in new york. there's a lot of talk this week about the scale of poverty. almost half of new york residents are struggling to pay their bills. you go to suburban los angeles. you can find people who have jobs. they lost their jobs and now they have jobs again but those jobs pay half to one-thir one-tf what these they and they don't come with benefits. so i think when you talk about poverty in this country, what you're talking about as modern-day america. we think of ourselves as socially mobile us them a fundamental toward self image as a country. we are an upwardly more dash mobile, opportunities country. unfortunately, if you look at the data, america today is less socially mobile than almost every other first world country. what that means is it you were born into poverty in america, you are far more likely to stay
in poverty and if you're born in poverty in let's say sweden or germany or canada, or even greece for portugal, or any of the other bankrupt or reveal states in the european union. if you fall into poverty, or the house, the job, you have a health emergency, that poverty is far more likely to cripple your future than it is in of the first world country i think today, poverty is a central part of the american narrative. is almost entirely ignored by the political classes. it's this invisible crisis. to me, that was the most basic of the book, making some invisible that should never been allowed to become invisible. >> i think a lot of americans have a misunderstanding of the scale of this problem, just how many people really are poor in the united states. can you give us a bit of a sense of that? >> yeah. i think one of the reasons that it's so easy for people to ignore it is poverty that stand
to, in essence, make itself invisible. a lot of people i talked to said one of the collateral consequences of losing income is lucy billy to publicly -- you can't afford to go to cafés began afford to go to socialize. against cost a bit of money. when you're literally counting pennies when you're literally juggling to buy food or die by school supplies with a prescription can't i pay rent, one that my telephone bill go on my gas bill go lex at that point you can't afford anything luxury. begin to make his of invisible but you tend to pull back and stay in your hands. if you have a job go to work, you can't afford to go out to lunch with our colleagues who sit in a cubicle instead. so it becomes this progressive marginalization. one of the result is if you do not live in poverty, it's still fairly easy to pretend that you don't see the poverty.
when you look at the number of women talking to 1 million, 2 million, 3 million, not even 10 million or 20 million. one in six americans, 15% of americans live in poverty by the governments own measure of poverty. i say i the governments, because it's barely an adequate measure. but by that measure one in six americans default but most of our social safety net has been shed. welfare is a pale imitation of what it was 40, 50 years ago. access to a lot of benefits programs is massively reduced. the one area where it's still relatively intact is food stamps. at the moment. unless the republicans get their way in which case it will be intact. but at the moment that stands are still pretty much intact. and so the numbers on food stamps serve as a fairly good proxy for the numbers in poverty. because if you are poor with
very few exceptions, the primary exception being if you're an undocumented migrant, but other than that if you're poor in america you qualify for food stamps. there are 47 million americans on food stamps. that's a staggering number. 47 million americans by the governments own measure are now so poor, are struggling so much that if they didn't have food assistance they would be malnourished. that's extraordinary. and the idea that we cannot talk about this is even more extraordinary. the idea that we went through an entire presidential election campaign last year, and neither candidate made a major speech on poverty. actually, one candidate did. he talked about 47% of the population. [laughter] but with that exception, neither candidate addressed the problem. obama started to calm made a very interesting speech at the 15th anniversary commemoration of martin luther's kings "i have
a dream" speech and he did talk about poverty. he talked about the fact that if you're going to deal with the issue of social justice, he had a coal poverty in america but obama is now talking about it but the question is that it was political momentum behind it. it will result in the programmatic change. probably not unless people like you and me and everybody else that cares about the issue pushes it because the default is if you don't push it, it's easier not to talk about it. ..
it is one out of every four american children is 4 and one out of three african american children. talk a little bit about child poverty and the impact of poverty on the lives of children in this country. >> guest: you are right on all the data you gave. the category of having more child poverty than every other country apart from romania. reasonably at some point when romania gets beyond this legacy, less poverty, every other country in the world puts more effort into tackling child poverty. is seen as a basic measure of social security and social equity. in america, we met this problem fester. in the 1960s we put some effort into tackling child poverty. tackling the poverty of the elderly and world poverty's greatest single success was
limiting elderly poverty but we ignored child poverty. if you go back ten years to the beginning of the century child poverty stood at 16%. that was seen as staggeringly high. ten years later it is 22.5%. just under one in four kids of all ethnicities and all ages is for. that is an average. african-american children and latino . that is an average. african-american children and latinopoor . that is an average. african-american children and latino. that is an average. african-american children and latino children have higher poverty rates. in new orleans 66% of african-american kids live in poverty and detroit, philadelphia, north philadelphia, 67 the% of kids live in poverty. what does that mean? it is not an abstract concept. it means very tangible things not least of all those kids are
going to bed hungry and waking up hungry and going to school trying to get an education hungry. some of that is alleviated. we have a school lunch, school breakfast program that is functional, put the lot of people who would otherwise be hungry into some kind of food security. here is a problem, doesn't exist in the summers, there has been a lot in the literature about the education value of the summer when kids regress education leave. the other thing that happens in the summer is poor kids get hungry. a lot of localities recognize that and created these institutions that have a horrible sounding name, some are feeding programs, places where low-income kids can go to get meals, parks, community centers, sometimes properly funded, sometimes the federal government steps in with money. a couple years ago the federal
government stepped in to st. louis with a pilot program to send 10,000 low-income kids who would otherwise go hungry in the summer, here was the response on the radio. after this program, it, quote, created surface people who woer never have a work ethic paula 0 we call him a schoolyard bully. he is a guy with a massive platform and using it to beat up on hungry children. if he was isolated you would say he was a freak of nature, let's ignore him but a large part of the political process is based on that idea. a large part of political rhetoric is based on the idea that if you use that government service even if you are a kid,
you are somehow morally polluted, corrupted, you are soiled goods. i think that is a scandal. when i think of child poverty i think of the kid that i met in east los angeles. they were teenagers, mainly children of immigrants in an honor program and being tracked for college. i spoke to this class and one after another they told me in the wake of the 2008 collapse parents lost their jobs these were immigrants doing janitorial work, domestic work, lost their jobs and one after another they told me they had gone into foreclosure or if they were renting they had been kicked out and this was the choice these kids were facing. do i pursue my college dreams, and that means for many years i can't financially help my parents or do i give up my college dreams, get an a dollar an hour job in a fast-food restaurant and put that money into supporting my parents?
that is the choice these kids had to make. to me that is the story of child poverty, not with an serfs but kids caught in an unpalatable situation and those are the choices they have to make. >> how do we get in this fix? this didn't just happen with the great recession. this was building in the years before. this is an extraordinarily wealthy country, the mayor of the city is worth $27 billion. i can't get over that. the mayor for 12 years but still wrestling with it. there are all kinds of wealthy people in this country. it is the rich countries. how did we get in this fix where there are so many people struggling and we have not touched the people who are a notch or two above the poverty level. what happened? >> one of the most interesting
interviews that it with a policy expert was with harvard kennedy school of government lecture room marshall dance who spent years as a community organizer, build these ideas of narrative storytelling, very interesting guy. if you understand the problem as being poverty you are missing the point. poverty is a symptom. he said poverty is the miner's canary. in the old and days before there were high-tech gas monitoring equipment if you were a minor you go down and take a canary, a little bird with you and if the bird drops dead you know there is gas in the mine and you run. it was low warning something was wrong. he said this is what poverty is in modern america, a symptom of a more fundamental malaise. then he started talking about inequality and the fact that increasingly, we're two societies. the tiny sliver of people with
huge access to resources, huge ability to manipulate the political process and everybody else. societies that developed the kind of inequality that america developed over the last few decades are committing collective suicide. historically you cannot build a democracy around inequality this profound because what you have inequality at this level, once you have a few people monopolizing vast amounts of resources the democracy itself ceases to be accountable. if you have access to money you have access to power. if you have no access to many have no access to the political process, no access to power so i think the story of modern day america poverty is a symptom but the real story is over the last 40 years we developed a level of inequality no other democracy as. the way our country looks, economically, would be familiar
to our great great grandparents who lived in the gilded age which was also the age of taking photographs of tenements slums. it wouldn't be familiar to the people who grew up in the great society. it wouldn't be familiar to people who grew up in the new deal to a large extent wouldn't even be familiar to the people who grew up in the beginning of the 20th century in the progressive era. we are allowing a degree of any quality to develop in the name of the regulation and it is going to have extraordinary long-term implications for the way our politics, not our economics but the way our politics functions. past part of my motivation was to explore the politics behind inequality. the last part of the motivation, about solutions, unchanging the political discourse to make it unacceptable to allow this level of inequality to keep festering. >> host: there are two groups
that i'd think about, even when people are talking about the 4 they don't talk about, the first are the group really at the bottom, folks living in deep poverty and there are folks that i mentioned a notch or two above the poverty line, can you talk about those two groups? >> that is an important question because poverty in america is hard to identify. i traveled all over the world and there are places where poverty is so absolute that there's no mistaking it. if you travel to the slums of bombay for example you see a level of poverty that is unmistakable because it is absolute. you are tripping over people who literally have nothing. poverty in america is more subtle. most people in poverty have something. poverty is relative rather than absolute but there's a group of people you talked about who live in deep poverty, that is a government term, statistical
terms that means they lived at most half of the poverty level. the poverty level is $11,000 for single person in a year if you are in deep poverty you are mulling $5,000 or $6,000 a year. it turns out six million americans live with literally no access to cash. they don't have jobs or savings or bank accounts, they are -- don't qualify for welfare programs or did qualify but got out. six million americans including millions of kids have no access to cash so they survive on food stamps which is a non-cash benefit, survived on charity, survive maybe occasionally doing black market economics but no legitimate access to cash and their lives are literally and to mouth. an example would be a woman i met in albuquerque, new mexico. and undocumented migrants who was working with the domestic
home help. i talked to her about what she had. she started crying because what she had was nothing. a couple dollars, hand me down clothes her employer had given her, she was theoretically paid $7 an hour if you work 24 hours a day which isn't illegal but basically on call 24/7 so she worked out $2 an hour. and she had not a thing to her name. migrant farm workers in texas who lived in a community center, it was literally on the border, the rio grande, the border crossings, ninth avenue, and this community center. hundreds of migrant farm workers leave their because they had nowhere else to live. they sleep on the floor back to back and at midnight they get up and at 1:00 in the morning they go out into the streets and hang their positions in plastic bags on the trees on the street and get bid out to labor contractors
and at 2:00 in the morning but in the back of trucks and sent to farmers in texas and new mexico and do a day after labor come back 20 or $30. i met this guy, the one thing he had he pond because it wasn't working, one thing he owned in life with a portable black-and-white television and he had to pawn it because he had no money. that is absolute poverty. there's another group of people who are one notch up from that and they might work for a company like walmart. walmart markets its of as paying above minimum wage. quite a nice marketing. mcdonald's does the same thing, dollar or $2 above minimum wage except they spend a huge amount of money lobbying to keep the minimum wage low. minimum wage is $7 for years. before that it was stuck at $5 for years. obama made a commitment to ways -- raise the minimum wage to $9. congress has no interest in raising the minimum wage. you have workers little woman i
met 67 years old, diabetes, cancer, heart attack victim, came into the interview on a walker, she hobbled in too poor to retire, works full time at wal-mart outside dallas, non unionized, hearns before taxes about $1,800 a month. does have health insurance through wal-mart but they take options. is encouraged by the company to spend $300 a month buying walmart stock which is useless to her. she will never retire anyway. there buying their stock. i said of what do you eat? she said i am supposed to eat healthy food because i have diabetes but i eat tv dinners from wal-mart and often can't afford it so i go to bed hungry. she was too sixth to take a bus to work and to know how to drive so had to pay her neighbor gas
money to drive her to work at walmart. to me that is near poverty. people who according to walmart are doing okay because they're a couple dollars an hour above minimum wage but no way are they doing okay. they don't have any economic security and there are millions of workers all over this country but especially in the south because a lot of the poverty is concentrated in places like texas all over the country workers in that kind of situation. one of the things i thought was most stunningly disingenuous about the last election campaign when rick perry was running for president, before he got his third point. one of the things touted was the idea that in the midst of a recession, taxes created jobs. that is true, look at the numbers. texas is doing well, as lower than average unemployment, and created jobs in the recession
but about to mention one other number which texas had 7% unemployment, california had 12% unemployment. texas has one of the highest poverty rates in the country. how do you square that? if an awful lot of people working full time jobs in texas are in poverty. when you analyze it that is what happened. texas has such the deregulated workplace is functioning as a domestic -- come to texas, tell your workers appalling wages, the most of workplace conditions and do it with the blessing of the texas legislature. a helluva way to market your statement that is how rick perry did it. that is what near poverty means to me. >> i will try to channel rush limbaugh's listeners. this is scary. somebody help me out.
why should we care about these folks? life is tough for an awful lot of people in this country. why not just what the pork people fend for themselves? >> poor people i neighbors, relatives, friends, could conceivably be us because we live in a world of economic insecurity. i yale political scientist wrote a great book called the great mystery chef and he analyzed in the last four decades a huge amount of risk that used to be borne by corporations are shifted onto individuals. go to the 1980s, most workers had defined benefit pensions. the back end of a 35 or 40 year career they knew they would retire with a degree of security. fast forward today almost no worker has a defined benefit pension the same happened with health care, tremendous number of workers lost their health insurance. every measure, if you look at what happened the last 30 or 40
years if you are an ordinary american, not a particularly poor american but if you are in the middle, you are bearing more risk than you used to bear. if you are at the top you are bearing less risk than you used to bare. your taxes have gone down. if you ira corp. your benefits obligations of gone down. every measure, there is a transference of risk downward. when rush limbaugh appeals to his audience and says you don't want to care about those people, first of all it is to the but second of all it is bait and switch. what he is saying is don't pay attention to the real problem because the real problem is complicated and the real problem involves actually thinking and analyzing. just do the easy thing and the easy thing has always been to look for somebody worse off than you and basically say i am not like them, i am better than them, i don't care about them so why should we care?
we should care because we are a society. there is such a thing as a social contract that we should also care because realistically we all have a stake in this, there's self-interest to caring about this and ultimately there is the self-interest to working out policies solutions and working on a way of discussing this that takes us beyond that sound bite because if we don't do that, if we don't reach think the way we approach inequality, if we don't rethink the way we approach what wages we pay workers, what is acceptable to pay workers commack at the end of the day that cycle of inequality discontinues and if we define ourselves as the democracy, we can't let this inequality -- back to pericles, back to political philosophers two thousand years ago and they were already writing and talking about the danger inequality pose to a stable political structure.
there is nothing new about this. this is a problem that has existed for thousands of years. what is new at the moment is the american political process's inability to grapple with it. >> poverty is often seen as a problem primarily of non-whites especially african-americans but also latinos. a couple questions. one is to what extent is this true or not true and 2, to what extent has this prevented us from really engaging or grappling with the problems associated with poverty? >> a great question. there is no doubt about it. we do think of poverty as being something other people experience. i use that with quote around the word. while it is true that a disproportionate number of
african-americans and latinos live in poverty is also true that in absolute numbers more whites are in poverty. if your measure of why i should care is does it affect my group and to me that is the crazy measure but a lot of people measure it that way. if that is your measure, by any way you calculate it, this is any issue that affects every race, every geographic region in this country. if you cross policy responses, you cross policy responses to all those different communities and regions. you are going to find concentrated pockets of poverty in african-american communities and latino communities but most certainly also in white and asian communities and every other ethnicity and it only takes a little bit of energy, a little bit of leverage. if you are a journalist, if you are a policymaker, if you are a commentator really takes a little bit of effort.
all you have to do is get in your car, drive somewhere and talk to people and you find the scale of the poverty. the implication of looking at it as something that only affects other people or other groups, at it shrivels the and imagination. it means we are not thinking about the scale of the problem comes as the community we are not thinking of ways we can get together to solve those problems. one of the things we need to do as a society is having a conversation about who is in poverty, and what can be done about that poverty. >> host: you talk a lot about ways we can begin to get out of this fix. these myriad problems associated
with poverty. give us a sense of some of the major, most promising proposals that you suggest. >> for me this has always been a political question more than an economic question. we can't afford to fund our social safety net, we have overspend and are bankrupt, that is the narrative of the tea party and increasingly the mainstream republican narrative. we have to cut, because otherwise the country will sink. a lot of people talk about grease. we will become like grease or we have become like greece. to me there's a medical analogy we could use here. increase is a small country with very profound economic problems. genuine economic problems. has run out of money not being the least of them. when grease spends money at the
moment it is basically spending loans from the european union's particularly out of cash and the medical analysis is a disease like cancer. disease that is eating away. the american body politics doesn't have cancer. it has anorexia. we are choosing not to nourish our public infrastructure. we have got a political narrative in place that basically says it is wrong to fund things like health care properly, it is wrong to fund public works programs properly. we could do it. we are $17 trillion economy. the largest economy in the world. we have the most billionaires in the world. we have a tremendous amount of money that could be used if we chose to use it. if we chose to raise taxes on certain groups, if we chose to raise taxes on certain corporations, if we chose to
readjust maybe 2% to 3% of gross national product, two hundred million sopa trillion, we have all the wherewithal economically to create a viable new war on poverty. how do you do this? if it is a political problem you got to change the politics. we have had 40 years of people saying government doesn't work, it can only deliver clemens. the government can only deliver lemons, why give it more money to develop bad programs? it seems to me the way you break out of this destructive cycle is push a few programs that will be universally popular, that you could implement and could work and in working would shift the discussion about the role of government the same way social security did in 1930s. i actually start, i have a whole bunch of solutions but start with two big ones and i am sorry about this but i will increase
your taxes. i hope you will bear with me while i explain why. no apologies. you guys will pay a little bit more if my plan gets implemented. i will advocate and educational opportunity fund. doesn't exist but it should exist. it will be a line on your income tax that will start with 1/4% paid by employees and paid by employers. the average median wage give or take roughly $30,000 a year. 1/4 of 1% is $75 a year. not a huge amount of money. here is what the money is going to do, create a pool of cash large enough that the government can access it to give birth every child born in america $5,000 to be put into an education fund and used for higher education years from now.
over 18 years that $5,000 by any realistic measure will grow quite considerably. $20,000, will not fully fund someone's higher education but it is better than going to the decline of student dead people have at the moment. what about the people who don't go to college? why would they have an incentive to buy in? there pool of money if they don't go to college is kept until they retire. at the back end of their working career it is added to their social security payments. since people who don't go to college earn less over a lifetime they tend to have low retirements. if you does their retirement, everyone has to buy in. you familiarize people with it and show it works and over ten years you increase that to 1%. if you have fought 1% tax paid by employees and employers you
could give every american child at birth $20,000, that money will almost entirely go to higher education at the back end. is an insurance model like social security but education. secondly increase taxes and another line item on your taxes will be for public works fund because the huge number of people thought they were in vulnerable to unemployment found in 2008 their jobs weren't secure. they lost their jobs or lost their hours and ended up with fourteen million people unemployed and millions more jobless not even looking for work anymore. we spent tens of billions of dollars through the stimulus, american recovery act basically indirectly trying to prop up the labor market and three million jobs is the best estimates. one -- why not create a public works and that creates a pull
hundreds of billions of dollars? to be released in the event of an employment emergency? that money is there. we already funded it through a tax bite in, sam like house insurance of car insurance we already bought by universal public works insurance so the money is there to prop up the labor market in the event of an employment crisis. two relatively small additions to the tax code that would create a universal by in. i don't know if you could do it. the political climate is so toxic it would be a hard sell. it is realistic plan precisely because it is ambitious. if you get people to buy into the idea that twenty-first century government is capable of delivering a cadillac instead of a lemon i think you change the political debate. you have rendered less potent the argument people like rush limbaugh or the koch brothers, if you could do that you could
have a more holistic anti-poverty initiative. >> host: why should we have not done more? we know where republicans are coming from, where rush limbaugh's listeners are coming from but what about the democrats? what about barack obama? here is a fellow his supporters love to tell you with a community organizer. why have people in the united states you might otherwise think would care about this issue why have they not done more? >> it comes back to the previous answer, taxes have become so toxic, distrust of government so pervasive, we all must resort to a knee-jerk response, government bad, taxes bad but it is more nuanced than that. government can be good, taxes can be good or bad, depends what they use and whether they are
using it well. it seems to me we have gone through a cycle. you can trace it to many causes but let's say watergate is a decent starting point. there is a series of events late 60s early 70s which corrode public faith in the good of government and in terms of people who question, in terms of a nation of 6cynics . over 30 or 40 is confidence in government wins. when is the government's response or non response to hurricane katrina. in the most visceral way possible you see every level of government fiddling, the county, the parish government shelling, the state government in louisiana failing and the federal response being absolutely in at.
that was televised, on newstube, all over the world people saw that and it collapsed confidence in the ability of government to do good. you see that in opinion poll numbers. almost nobody has confidence in the ability of congress to do anything. nobody likes the way congress works. the president gets better ratings but the tremendous public distrust, tremendous public danger. a lot of their acreage justified and a lot of that distrust justified. so i think the blame can be widely dispersed here but in the sense the blame is not irrelevant but secondary. we are in that situation. that is a reality. in a situation of pervasive distrust of government yet we need government to regulate, we need government to provide social insurance systems, we need those things to function. the challenge is how do you rebuild confidence? how do you rebuild structures of governance? how do you rebuild the way in
which government insists -- it can be done but it is tremendous, you have to work not just on creative thinking to invent institutions but in rebuilding the language, the way we discuss public infrastructure. >> host: i don't disagree with that. the cynicism, the way in which people view government, it might go back beyond watergate to vietnam. we have seen what has gone on since the turn of this century. we will wrap up, the question asked of me going around the country, what can ordinary people do? people will read your book, people will be inspired by it, we offered many potential solutions. it is a heavy political lift but the question is how do you turn
the heavy lift, how do you make it real? what can ordinary people do? whose responsibility is it if government has not been responsive to this point to apply pressure to try to get government respond? >> a terrific question and i always felt the change in america comes from the ground up and almost always has come when groups of people organized whether it is trade unions, whether it is women's suffrage movements going back a hundred years or so. usually the most inspiring changes have occurred when a critical mass of people in communities have gotten together and said things have to change. you see groups like national people's action, organizing very creative approaches on the banking system, the housing
crisis, i interviewed a farmer in the demolition who said i have never been political before, never done anything like this but i can't stand the way these corporations are taking it from us. she was talking about the way the tax code for structured, the way the banks have been bailed out, she was angry and joined various groups and going to shareholder meetings, protesting the decisions bankers were making, protesting the decisions other corporations had made and i think basically that is what is going to happen over the next 5, 10, 15 years. some politicians will tackle the data state level, federal level, there will be interesting initiatives. california the other day began debating legislation for $10 minimum wage in california. really interesting things can occur politically but i suspect they will occur on grass-roots organizing and when you said earlier a lot of people came in
with optimism about obama because he was a community organizer, obama himself realizes that, that if things are going to change, he and his colleagues in d.c. are going to have to be pushed to make those changes. roosevelt realize it in the 1930s, on record telling people to put him on certain issues. johnson knew it in the 1960s. seems to me the creative thoughts between political leadership and citizenry is an age old dance and when both parties engage, citizenry, politicians, that is when things happen. i don't think it will happen overnight but i think over time, shift the debate on this. >> that was terrific. if we can give sasha abramsky a
round of applause. and i appreciate -- i thought the answers were so thoughtful and so detailed, you could get into with, i really liked that. let's have some questions out there and we will try, recognize this fellow over here. we have a microphone up there. >> to get your question on tape by the way. >> host: you will have to go down there but we already have somebody closing in on the mic. >> why do you think the american populace is so lacking in the qualityethics? >> guest: can i trust the @ the
way you are approaching that. >> i disagree. people will answer with things like you can't help everybody so why should you help anyone? >> guest: is true to point, some people say that. i also think the way our communications technology works at the moment we amplified a anger. if you go to a blog site there are a bunch of angry comments about welfare scrounge resent so on and did is easy to think everyone in the country thinks that way but actually it is more than likely most people don't think that way but the people who are angry enough and bitter enough on the ones to spend the time going online to log their comments. the careful to say everybody is not impacted. some people do say some very cool things. >> host: thank you. >> you said something very
important, racism is at the core of a lot of public perception and i worked in the streets of brownsville, east new york in the 60s and it was the slum of the slums and did that from the city. a lot of that is gone but what is stuck in a lot of people is poverty was black and latin question. they never understood the depth of their alignment and self-interest or the same as blacks or hispanics and i will point out what i did. during the rise of the tea party, michele bachman was out there and paul ryan was out there, i did an analysis of congressional spending went into every single congressional district of every single tea party person. it was in the billions of dollars. congressional district had millions of dollars and went up to $1 billion of federal fund,
student aid, food stamps, pell grants, social security benefits but they didn't know it. they didn't know how much money goes to the cat across the street, that dialogue was completely missing from any discourse. i gave it to the new york times and they did one story with it. it has appeared no place. the tea party people don't know how much money the federal government is giving their own people. if that dialogue becomes more well-known than government would not be viewed as the alien beast that it is because the people controlling the tea party propaganda are the very rich people -- rush limbaugh flies his own jet and makes $100 million a year. >> host: thank you. >> guest: you are right about where the money goes. very interesting study a year ago was on people who self
identify as conservatives and routinely they underidentify their own involvement with government. it turned out they were governed -- getting government assistance, mortgage tax rated, didn't identify as assistance. coming back to this idea of empathy, people are quick to say if you are on welfare you are not deserving. we will make it held for you get benefits. one of the big sort of discussions at the moment has been how can we make it even harder to get those benefits? fingerprint people, make and take drug tests, due criminal background checks, housing authorities do it, calif. to get food stamps come as a result half of eligible people got food stamps but imagine if we were to say the same for those self-proclaimed conservative who were getting mortgage tax
relief? next time you file a tax return if you want to get mortgage tax relief you have to peer into a cup to prove you are not smoking marijuana. it would be impossible. imagine if we said to an elderly person, and go to the fingerprint. the lack of empathy is intensified when benefits are defined as only being used by others. it is not true. you are absolutely right. almost everybody in this country is using some form of government benefit. >> going back to this question of empathy. i agree with you that some people are quite a empathic but as you point out, what happens is the thousand points of light model, people channel their empathy into individual private
sector non-profit charitable religious based kinds of actions and in order to do what you are talking about and what some of us may believe is the only way to solve this which is a government effort, somebody or somebodys would have to make the moral case for doing something. and i am curious if you think, who if anybody you think out there now is making the moral argument and who those people are. is anyone doing it? >> within the political process. >> within the public's fear. >> the answer is lots of people are making the case but inside the political process, inside academia, think tanks, foundations and so on. in the sense we covered this with a massive head start compared to buck harrington in 1962. harrington in 62 is a lone voice.
he is going around the country seeing poverty and no one is listening to him. no one in politics is talking about it. nobody in academia is devoting their work to systemic poverty problems. and he said look, we might be in a partial date of affluence but it is an incomplete story and he was a lone voice pushing a political process, issuing a moral challenge saying live up to our ideals and was very successful. a few years the war on poverty takes off and there's a huge infrastructure in place to talk about this. the reason i say we have a head start is today the infrastructure is in place, there are economists who do nothing but study poverty and think tanks are doing that and foundations give out, there are tremendous number of politicians so we have a lot of conversations about politicians ignoring the issues, there are a lot of politicians who care about this the their voices are drowned out. elizabeth warren in the senate
clearly cares about the issue. the chair of the progressive caucus talk about poverty all the time. go to the state level, there are a bunch of state senators and state representatives who are trying to create state level anti-poverty initiatives. at the city level, cities are doing creative stuff, richmond, calif. recently began a plan for essentials lee reclaim foreclosed houses from the banks and seldom at a reduced rate. there are cities, counties, states and people in federal government trying to do this. what isn't being done is connecting the dots, the holistic approach, the idea of understanding how interconnected these issues are. that is because at a cabinet level this is a totally ignored issue. we have a labor secretary, the labor secretary generally deals with things like workplace
violations. environmental secretary, government involvement, could deal with major urban environmental issues but generally not so much. all kinds of things could be done at a federal levelland cabinet level, you could connect the dots but this is as important as the department of education, important that the department of health and human services. it merits the department. you have a cabinet level position, we have a drug policies are for 40 years in this country and the poverty star, somebody coordinating and connecting the dots. >> i heard the name rush limbaugh mentioned a few times tonight. yet the one station that we have in new york to discuss issues
like these which is wb i on the radio. the progress of community hasn't come to the rescue of this station which almost went under. maybe will survive, maybe not. let's look at -- let's look at the entire community here, both the 1% and the rest of us, who is going to stand up for progressive issues? if we can't save the one channel on the radio where we can securely discuss issues like these and others, that to me is pretty tragic. the second thing is things seem to be getting worse and under obama, all the statistics, all the data indicate it is getting worse. what would you say to people who say the only thing we left for us is class warfare?
they are already accusing deb s deblasi deblasio. what is left if we can use our legislators, if we can use congress, if we can't use all those systems that are available to us, the unions now represent a fraction of the american populace, what is left to a 6 of that? >> guest: the rhetoric around class warfare i find strange in this country. the last election there was a whole pattern of comments from conservative saying that obama was during the class warfare and the rationale that he was talking about increasing capital gains taxes, therefore was a class warrior. it seems to me absolutely bizarre, talk about moderately increasing the taxes of the wealthiest americans and that is class warfare but you talk about
eliminating systems for hungry children and that is not class warfare. it seems to me class is an undeniable part of our discourse. because we are an unequal society, definitional not a member of the same class we get squeamish when we talk about it. we like to pretend we are middle-class that there is no way michael bloomberg, $27 billion, there is no way he is middle-class. there is no way the farm worker i met is middle-class. it seems to me our understanding of class and our public discourse is a little bit bizarre. in terms of what you were saying that there is no choice but class warfare, there are many choices. there are all kinds of ways to reinvigorate the political
discourse and all kinds of ways to get involved in the political discussion that don't involve going to the barricades. there are different ways one can push a political agenda, different ways people can discuss issues of poverty or equity and fiat am reluctant to go down that road and say we are about to have class warfare. i don't think we are but i think we have a disingenuous way of talking about this issue. >> host: nobody asked me but i think we have been engaged in a class war for the last 40 years and losing. somebody should pay attention. [applause] >> i just came from the u.n. mental health sustainability conference. thank you for your good work and the importance of these >> and the more ethical society
in new general as well as juvenile rehabilitation. in terms of you mentioned language and empathy, as a group in westchester that belonged to a good focus in terms of coalition of mutual respect, a function in october and they are saying the issues of dignity and empathy, how do we talk to which other, work together as a reverend or a rabbi. is a reverent, a black reverend and white rabbi and how do we work together for a culture of mutual respect? local to global including new york state and new york city be a model for those issues including better education and don't you think this is a moment in time in terms of poverty that is a particular opportunity that there's so much dissatisfaction,
the issues of benign neglect, so much poverty in the world and violence in the world but it is not just as one gentleman said, excuses given by conservatives, it is vote middle-class as well as so much of the developed world and the need for new economic models, the open society. a new investment institute that talks about the need for better economic thinking and political thinking. >> thank you. >> my question is we have seen in the 2008 economic crisis a lot of middle-class families lost a lot of savings.
i am wondering, i am curious have you ever seen this move from big banks to more local community, is there a movement among impoverished communities to move and transfer their money to these more locally controlled entities? >> a really interesting question. there are movements like that a foot. i didn't put these around them. what i did interviews around was the community credit union of boston and they were dealing with poor neighborhoods in boston, very last number of homeowners left of the homes. you are seeing this emergence of profound poverty in the home owning communities and the banks were taking over these homes and sitting on them. a few years back, harvard law school set up a legal clinic to deal with foreclosures and began working with community
organizations that was on the ground trying to stop foreclosures and then they began working with the community credit union that started waving money to buy back distressed properties from the banks and resell them at renegotiated rates for the homeowners and it was the tremendous success because everybody won. the banks were foreclosing homes that modified half a million dollar mortgage on them. and selling $100,000 does nobody wanted a home so the banks were taking a huge hit. homeowners were losing their homes so the credit union, giving them 200,000 and take a hit but it will be less if you have a house on the open market. and sell it back at the new rate so their mortgage goes from 500,000 to 200,000. and the community credit union, everybody wins so i have seen things like that. and i argue in my book the
federal government could do a similar thing. if it could be done by the community credit union there is no way the federal government could step in and build up a public housing stock again, good public housing stock of affordable housing by taking over distressed properties and having the ex owners either when -- read the property or buy it back at a reduced rate. every month the percentage of what they were paying to the government could be used to rebuild a mortgage mistake. for a few years they were financially stable, they could buy the property back at a reduced rate. it is a win/win situation. all these creative things can be done around banking and around housing and information between the two. i am sidestepping the question because the answer is i didn't
interview specifically. >> thank you for your book and your presentation. i would like to engage a remark about empathy. i think it goes much more deeply than you acknowledge. it is an ideological problem because part of the fis--ito's --ethos of american psyche is the myth of the heroic individual, individualism goes back to the frontier days, which it was claimed there were folk who did it all by themselves beginning with lewis and clark opening it up and that has been bored and it endorsed today aen and those who subscribe to say
paula i did it and you don't deserve help, if you fail you fail. it goes into the ethos 220 you say to that? >> interesting question. peer the complicated relationship between the individual and the state and you talk about the myth of the frontier. you are right. is hard wired into our sense of self as a country that this is a country that rose from nothing over a vast expanse of land and created something. partly true and partner in not true but it is the sum much oversimplified narrative. if you look at if you look at the history through much of
american history the government has been involved from one degree to another in seating economic infrastructure. good to the 1820s in the building of can now that the 1860s and the role of the government even though it was private companies, involved in the transcontinental railroad to a degree. wherever you look you look at the giving of land to homesteaders, that is a government subsidy. how you get beyond the myth of the self-made country and self-made individual, i am a fan of reading history. the more you understand history the more you realize the complexity of the world you live in. you can quarter people to read history. you can't order politicians to think before they talk but you hope they do. particularly programmatic response but i hope and think that people think more carefully before they talk. >> take a moment and i will take
my seat. in the realm of religious discourse, we have so many people on the right complain to the christian, this goes against the east coast of christianity. mullen might turn to them and say the bible says love your neighbor as yourself and if you have not taken care your going to go into hell. ..
>> i work for a foundation in the united states and a lot of our cohorts spent a lot of time thinking about poverty outside this country's borders and we end up getting into some other strange conversations surrounding needs and i think that it might stand that you are working in an environment of scarcity, we have a government resources were scarce and our private system and we will are working through philanthropy and we are working in a restrained environment which gives us an approach to solve some of the issues that might say that if i have a dollar to solve a problem, it goes farther than bangladesh rather than here in the united states. there might be a larger connection as to how poverty or
prosperity effexor sense of well-being and your willingness and ability to participate in civic discourse or other kinds of social functions, which i thought was a very important point that you made to be part of civil society. >> i think it is a first choice. if you're talking about the government itself, one of the great misperceptions and usually when people, we developed this
by a series of 10. if you bring all that money back in and development domestically, there probably wouldn't be enough to keep a huge dent in the domestic poverty problem. and if you want to have money for the program, but only half the people pay taxes, you can't have a sister wish and like general electric. you have oil companies that are dramatically undertaxed and if we want to fund domestic poverty programs, we have to have a smart conversation about a more progressive tax system and the other issue is that if you put an emphasis on poverty is really
important and if you are aware of how it might be, why not also focus on things domestically and i think it is healthy to say that this is a global issue and there is a level of unnecessary poverty both globally and domestically. >> so we are going to have a book signing. >> thank you. >> some quick comments, first of all, i appreciate the ideas that you are bringing forth and it
has great ideas. >> i thank you so much. >> the ideas coming off of the floor are also pretty interesting. every time we had to open a bank account, it had to be separated and we would say that we would like to go to our local bank, but there is such an insecurity, and then of course, i learned some time ago that anytime there any time there is fear, there is a lack of information that leads to fear factors. so you go to the city of california and renegotiate as a government and we are talking about local banks again. and it is hard because this happens in the country and you get comfortable. these are specific ideas and even just a lack of information
as to how -- how secure you can be with smaller blanks and what have you. i certainly appreciate the conversation then i want to thank my special mentor who invited me and when you have these things, i encourage you to bring us and we appreciate the opportunity. thank you. [applause] >> yes, sir. >> here is a line that i heard from a ceo once and what speaks to me is the levels and levels of predation that exists and against the poor and mortgages that obviously costs more and food costs more at the grocery
store and we have been talking in much of the discussion about public policy and how do we address the elements of a society where the most horrible people in the poorest are victimized by the most pernicious elements they can take their money? >> we are going to a poor community and you see a tremendous amount of loan stores. eighty dishonest form of loans in this country and how do you get beyond that role? you cannot do this legislatively, there is a limit with what you can have for loss. for example, you have to create
free distribution networks and a lot of the most creative work on this issue is going on by nonprofit groups in states like california which are putting in an tremendous amount of efforts to get healthy and affordable farmers markets and to get them to accept food stamps and there are things that can be done to increase choices. and people have tried and you just can't do it. but you can offer viable alternatives and they aren't given options. but would you give options and expand that for the credit systems fairways and you can use institutions of government money to create more choice in poor
neighborhoods and i do think that that is a part of the problem that you see the worst kind of exploitation when you see the least kind of genuine choice. >> thank you. >> thank you, sir. congratulations on the book and you have spoken about government if i can summarize it this way, it is part of the solution and all of my clients, even some in the poorest neighborhoods, i find i'm often that is what my clients complain most about and it's a very city that the housing authority and agencies have to rely on to get by in
many of the employees at these agencies themselves and they are also on food stamps and i wonder what the folks that you talk to, what were their thoughts about government and certainly is the last question, it feels like the people who are only happy with the government services are the great slumlords who benefit handsomely from this. >> it is a great question, it really is. you're absolutely right that poor people often have deeply unpleasant interactions with government agencies. and at least in part that is because there are government agencies we can set up to be unpleasant.